In one of my last posts I mentioned that I would be interviewing the founder/artistic talent behind Francesca Joy Palm Beach and I can now present to you, my lovely readers, that interview. Elise Francesca is a friend of mine from college. We used to run cross country together and I can honestly say that she is someone who dreams big. We used to talk books, music, and boys as we ran through the woods waiting for our coach to whip by us on a bicycle and I remember during our freshman year she showed me her artwork. It’s funny, but I never would have predicted that she’d start a wildly beautiful business, one that is gaining in popularity every week. I’m really happy that she’s made something out of just an idea. That’s really hard nowadays and taking that seedling of an idea and bringing it to fruition is really amazing. Perhaps the thing I find most interesting about Elise is that she decided to drop out of one of the best colleges in the country to pursue a dream. This is a huge risk. But she succeeded. One of the reasons I felt it necessary to interview her was because I tout this blog as being a common ground for people in the post college abyss, but I don’t believe academia is the only way to make a career and a life with your talents. Elise is a prime example of someone who knew what they wanted and dove in, head first. But I’ll shut up now and let her tell you about her experiences in the real world.
The woman behind the brushes, Elise Francesca
1) I remember in college you used to show me paintings and sketches that you worked on. When and how did you get the idea to turn that art into something commercial?
I always wanted to develop something that was wanted. Something that brought people to another place, another mindset, something that reminded them of something from the past, or even something unrecognizable that they could instantly understand. It’s complicated, I suppose. Paintings and sketches are ideas, and bringing that idea to fruition is a choice: to share or not to share with the world. Color is universal, but means something kind of different to everyone, and I wanted to give these ideas in my head life. It’s like writing, you know, you translate those ideas/thoughts in your head to paper. That’s the “creative” side of the choice, the business side of the choice is making money, and marketing a product/concept strategically within the context/boundaries of the time which you live. We live in an insane time. Sometimes I hate it, and sometimes I love it. We’re a generation picking up pieces and constantly recycling, making old new again, but once we run out of the old, the retro, it’s time we make something that speaks about us, thousands of years from now.
Ciao, a painting by Elise
2) Was it easy to go from making art to making a print for fabric?
I wouldn’t say it was easy, on the technical end. I had to do a lot of research, and speak to people in the industry on what the best route was. I consciously chose to go the “green” way and seek out the highest quality fabrics, made in America, that are sustainable. It’s progressive. Stella McCartney is a great example of this. Fabric, however, was always my intention. I wanted my audience (you must always create your audience) to come to me, yes, but you must shape who you are and they then decide if they want to fit your mold. That’s up to them. I wanted them to feel happy and like my designs- the paintings- and then I hoped that if I printed fabric, they’d want to wear it. I don’t know how I feel about fashion, really. It’s perhaps a love-hate thing, because I don’t consider myself nor do I consider my goals “trendy”. I believe in the power of expression and art through garments. I chose to view it as a form of entertainment because it’s not as boring. People in fashion aren’t really risk takers because they all do the same thing. It’s as though everyone has one big closet, so we all look the same. Fabrics and garments should be a show of their own.
They should never be dead.
Sick of your boyfriend's sad boring ties? Brighten up his style with a tie (or bowtie!) from Francesca Joy
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from? And which artists have the most impact on your work?
I draw my inspiration from music, mostly. Fashion photographers help, too. I love ads. They are captivating. O’Keefe, some Andy Warhol, and Matisse. I like Southwestern influences for color, too.
4) I’ve noticed you often name prints and designs after musical artists and songs. What role does music play in your artwork?
Music is everything to me. I am not musical as a person, however my brother, dad and uncle are all very talented musicians. It defines the direction of which I wish to take the colors in my art and fashion. How to make the sound of an electric guitar come through in a combination of hot pink, orange, and lemon-lime. It’s a crazy chemical mix of the senses and feelings. Rock and Roll, and Fashion should always be married.
This print, Mrs. Robinson, would make Simon and Garfunkel jealous.
5) I love the vibrant colours that bring life to your work. But having grown up in New England that’s not always what people go to first when selecting a colour palette for their wardrobes. So what gave you the idea to combine New England prep and Palm Beach colours?
New England Prep plus the Palm Beach colors is like the vacation for New Englanders. From a marketing point of view, it’s taking the concept of resort with what you know, what you were brought up with. I went to a boarding school in Connecticut, and when you’re kind of ‘trapped’ in the walls of a campus on wintry, blah days up north it provides you with the spark to start dreaming of other places. Maybe it’s somewhere exotic, or maybe it’s Southern California. Palm Beach and New England are a given, easily combined. The winter and summer versions of each other via wardrobe. But the New England background gave me a desire to want to create sunshine, and vibrant color.
This is my personal favourite tote. It has a map of CT (Yay home state!) in bright Palm Beach colours and a sailboat. Perfection!
6) Do you think a college education is necessary? What if someone, like yourself, has a talent that can’t necessarily be nurtured in college? What do you feel you gained from attending Mount Holyoke College versus what you learned when working in “the real world”?
Without higher education, I would not have known that college wasn’t for me. I gained the wisdom while at Mount Holyoke College to stand on my own two feet and take a risk. If I lose, I lose. But a risk is a risk. I gained the most amazing friendships and bonds from college, especially at MHC. Being around the most academic and disciplined young people is contagious. But you have to apply that to you personally. The real world is the real world- no grades, just your reputation and the definitive choices that make up that time-line of your life. You are never safe, and you face yourself whether you want to or not. I make mistakes everyday, and that’s how I learn. The failures and the competitors. They are the teachers.
It may be winter, but summer can decorate your phone all year!
7) Take me through a few milestone moments in the history of Francesca Joy. What were the struggles and obstacles that you had to overcome as well as the celebratory moments that made it all worth it?
The biggest struggle is starting a business with no money. I started FJ with the dollars I saved on paintings I sold. I started it with just believing in my concepts and the movement of fashion & art. The celebratory moments: being featured only a few months into starting my business as Top 5 South Floridian Designers to watch in 2011 by Boca Mag, being on AOL/Luxist, the first 3 months in. The response has been kind of surreal. That’s the fun part.
8) What values would you say embrace the core concepts of Francesca Joy?
Fashion can be selfish. I never want Francesca Joy to be associated with that behavior. If we can give back at the end of the day, then we’ve done a good job. The core concepts boil down to that. We can try to do all these great things while we’re on earth, but we have to help each other. That’s why I started our fundraiser with water.org . I clearly don’t have millions of dollars, but with the money I have from some of the totes and products, the smallest amount we donate really makes a difference.
On the art side of things, the values I stick with is to always be unique and true to my style. You can’t make everyone happy. You have to be yourself and the way you draw something or design something is you- the best mirror. I won’t change that, and I won’t copy anyone.
Want to treat yourself? Get a silk dress. I promise you, it feels like love caressing your skin.
9) What is your proudest moment so far?
The customers, walking around with FRANCESCA JOY. It was an idea, that they can now wear. I’m proud that they are happy. It’s about making them smile. It will always be that way for me.
10) What’s next for Francesca Joy PB? Any new products you are looking to expand into? And what about the art, is there anything new we can look forward to?
We’re working on bow ties, and possibly custom sandals, which is exciting. Someday we’ll do swimwear. I have a million ideas for bikinis! Hopefully some home inteirors. The prints are marketable, and there’s something for everyone.
I wish for the art to progress naturually, and take customers, fans, and admirers into a different place. I want them to feel like they’ve never seen it before. Every time. I want the works to feel like performances, and entertain.
A new tote from FJ's new collection. I want this to be real so I can jump into the stores and houses.
11) And finally, it’s so hard these days for young entrepreneurs to make a splash and get noticed. What is your advice to the people out there taking a risk and trying to do something on their own?
Have an idea that sticks out. The message, the vibe, the overall concept has to be fresh, and the best way to present that is in a non-pretentious, non-jaded manner. I wanted to start this whole thing young because I believe my ideas now are so unaffected; they are so virgin on so many levels. I always have high school students in their teens help me with fashion shoots or intern for me because what they have to say or what they have to present is so valuable. You can’t get that anywhere else. But take the risk. You may have a lot to lose, and you may not have the means, but if you feel in your gut you want something, you will always get it. And you have to fight.
If you love what you see (and I have no doubt you do!) you can find Francesca Joy at:
or you can shop her items at
Thanks so much for the interview Elise! And keep up the amazing work. This summer I will definitely be hitting up the beach with a FJ tote.